Askew-Henry Carrying A Chip On His Shoulder
Call this, if you will, an appreciation.
It comes now because it was graduation weekend at West Virginia University and it began to set into everyone’s mind that there are a lot of Mountaineer football players who have been here a long time who will play no more on Mountaineer Field.
Many have lived under an avalanche of accolades, Saturday’s heroes who lived in the spotlight, players like Will Grier and David Sills and David Long.
But there is one player in particular we want to focus on, perhaps because he started and played in more games than any other Mountaineer, a player who always seemed ready to have that breakout season but never had it arrive.
Dravon Askew-Henry is his name.
It has been five years since he took that ride down Interstate 79 from Aliquippa, Pa., to Morgantown, a ride so many from the Pittsburgh area have taken before him. They bring with them a record of high school glory, the clothes they can pack and their dreams.
Askew-Henry played 51 games as a Mountaineer, starting each and every one of them.
That wasn’t the way he planned it.
“The plan was three-and-out,” he revealed recently in an article in The Athletic.
He was going to play three years, enter the NFL draft, and exit to become an NFL star.
Might have happened, too, for he won over defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s heart early with his style, his approach.
What was that approach?
“You gotta have your own type of swagger about you … aggression,” is the way he explains it. “You got to be smart. You got to have chip on your shoulder because you are alone out there. You are on an island.”
He was a cornerback at first but that aggression turned him into a safety. He combined his aggression with ball skills to become something of a freak at safety, learning from Karl Joseph at first and watching him become a first-round NFL draft pick.
For two years he grew. A week before his junior season — the year that he assumed would be his last — he went up for a pass directed in practice toward Ka’Raun White. He did not come down in one piece.
He heard that awful “pop” that players now have come to as a torn ACL.
There went that third year, spend in the tedium of rehabilitation.
He came back the following year, wasn’t quite right, played through it and the played a fifth season, expecting to be drafted.
But the NFL relies more on how a player tests than what’s in his heart. Projected as a fifth through seventh-round pick, Henry lasted all the way through the draft, a difficult time when your family has gathered waiting to cheer you, not cheer you up.
Some way, though, it was a blessing for he got to sign with the hometown team, the Steelers, and it gave him the kind of challenge he thrives on.
“I’m kind of glad I wasn’t (drafted),” he said. “I’ve got this chip on my shoulder, something in me that I’ve got to let out. I’m hungry. I feel like I’ve got to prove something not just to (the Steelers), but to myself. They’re going to get an athlete who’s different, someone who’s not scared to compete, someone who’s going to do what the next man ain’t gonna do. I’m ready to get to work.”
He showed that throughout his time at WVU, growing into a leader in the secondary, a hard hitter who faced week after week the best offenses America and not backing down.
And while doing that he also earned that degree, being granted it last December, which gives him something to fall back upon if the NFL judgments of his abilities are right.
No matter whether he got the recognition he deserved, he turned his college career into a success … and you know he will offer all he has to extend that career into the NFL.